USA Team Riders Earn Big Championship Prize Money To Help Offset Costs of Competing in Europe
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
America’s eight riders taking their horses to Europe hoping to be selected to the World Equestrian Games team are leaving the United States championships with a total of $100,000 in their pockets that is typically not available for combinations representing their country as a result of a unique fund raising effort by a rider not benefiting and an owner whose horse did not make the squad.
“Game changing,” was the response from Caroline Roffman of Wellington, Florida whose horse, Her Highness O, and the other seven mounts will be shipped by The Dutta Corp. to Europe Wednesday to compete at Fritzens, Austria the Fourth of July weekend then the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany in mid-July.
“What a huge relief on my expense budget,” said Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida who has ridden her Calecto V on Uited States teams at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010, at the Olympics in London in 2012 and the World Cup Final earlier this year.
“I almost cried” with relief and thanks for the prize money said Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida who with her Verdades was the star of the show, placing second overall in her first Grand Prix championships at the age of 26.
“Incredibly thankful,” said Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho who rode Wizard at the 2012 London Games and has spent the last eight months living out of a suitcase as they stayed on the U.S. East Coast looking to qualify.
The prize money totals for each combination from the championships are: Steffen Peters of San Diego, California and Legolas $18,200; Laura Graves and Verdades $15,610; Jan Ebeling of Moorpark, California and Rafalca $15,150; Adrienne Lyle and Wizard $14,290; Tina Konyot and Calecto $13,850; Caroline Roffman and Her Highness $10,800; Shelly Francis of Loxahatchee, Florida and Doktor $8,260 and Lisa Wilcox and Denzello $4,760.
Several of the riders in the squad, including Laura, Caroline and Tina do not have sponsors with deep pockets though some get products that are as good as cash thoguh not substantial.
They rely on income from their training and sales businesses to underwrite expenses not covered by the transportation and accommodation costs paid for by the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation from gifts and fund raising programs. Robert Dover, who heads up the U.S. team as chef d’equipe, personally organized events in the past two years to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help underwrite costs.
The United States is one of the few nations in the world that, by law, gets no funding from taxpayer sources and depends on donations from individuals and corporations as well as sponsors of riders and allocations based on performances from the U.S. Olympic Committee to pay championship costs.
This year, the costs include round trip shipment of horses, riders and grooms to Europe, ground travel, hotels and showing expenses as well as vital support members like the team veterinarian. The riders leave behind their businesses that frequently require additional expenses to take care of horses and stables while they are away for at least one month for two competitions and another eix weeks for the four combinations and a reserve selected for the WEG team.
Great Britain and some other countries, for example, infuse their equestrian programs with millions of pounds/dollars of government-run lottery money. Some other governments make direct financial awards.
Catherina Haddad-Staller, who is married to a veterinarian specializing in horses and based at Califon, New Jersey near Gladstone launched the fund raising effort that was labeled the Gladstone Initiative from an idea from Michael Davis, who lives near Gladstone. He suggested asking owners for a portion of the money they would save by not having to send their horses and riders to California for the selection trials and from local businesses and supporters in New Jersey. The effort eventually raised $155,000 to be distributed primarily as prize money for the Grand Prix, an unprecedented level of support.
Catherine and her Mane Stream Hotmail decided to stay in Europe to train and compete rather than return for the championships while Van the Man ridden by Cesar Parra and owned by Michael did not become one of the eight Europe-bound horses.
“Wow! I didnt know I won that much,” Tina Konyot replied to dressage-news.com. “What a huge relief on my expense budget…
“Over the years the USEF has been very generous and supportive of Calecto and I and continue to do so. But with the additional prize money from our championships it’s a tremendous relief knowing we have a little extra room to breathe on our journey in Europe. Many thanks to all that made it possible.”
Caroline Roffman said the amount of the prize money “is game changing. It allows us to continue to follow our riding dreams and personal education without the added stress from a lost income. For me this prize money will allow me to focus on showing and becoming the best I can be, not worrying as much on how to pay my bills.”
Adrienne Lyle said she was “incredibly thankful” for the prize money. “So thankful to Catherine Haddad for getting the ball rolling. My home base is Idaho and we have been on the road since last November trying to do what was necessary to be able to qualify to make this trip to Europe. And I had to leave all the other horses in our barn in May. Since then it has been solely Wizard and myself on the road. The Thomas family has been very supportive to allow Wizard and I to have this opportunity, and it is incredibly nice to be able to give something back to them to help with some of Wizard’s expenses.”
Laura Graves, making her first competition trip to Europe and who operates a small training and boarding business near Orlando, said: “When I found out there would be prize money and a substantial amount I almost cried. It was such a relief to know that even if we placed in the bottom five all of these bills I had been racking up would be able to be paid. I had applied for a couple of grants this year and, unfortunately, I was not selected. This money will cover my debt as well as continued expenses while I’m away (truck payments, insurance etc.). I just got the letter to renew my horse’s insurance and without this prize money I could not afford to do that. No joke. I have asked who to thank because I am sincerely grateful…”